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Remembering David on World AIDS Day

David Strunk Hummel died of AIDS on July 30, 1987, one more casualty in what should never have become an epidemic in the first place.

I met David in San Francisco in the late 1970s, when we were both campaigning against the Briggs Initiative. He was like a brother to me in many senses of the word: protectorate, champion, critic, entertainer, court clown. I was young and careless, so when I left California in 1979, David and I fell out of touch, and I was unaware of his death until decades later.

I wrote about our friendship in an essay, “David, Just as He Was,” which was published in the Summer 2007 issue of White Crane, a small, elegant literary journal. In this essay I tried to capture our friendship, but I also pushed beyond this to describe the Castro in the 1970s — a sui generis, painfully brief Atlantis that rocked gently between the closeted past and the fearful future.

(When filming began for Milk, friends who knew of my writing excitedly wrote me to tell me how the Castro had been remade to resemble this era — I wish I could have seen that.)

If I could have just one visit with any of the world’s departed, I would ask for one more afternoon at the Cafe Flore with David, sipping coffee as we argued about life. That won’t happen, but what I could do tonight is donate to the institute that publishes White Crane, a journal that has played a crucial role in recording the lost worlds, and like most literary journals survives largely on love and determination.

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